47 online
Most Popular Choices
Share on Facebook 3 Printer Friendly Page More Sharing
General News   

Organic Family Dairies Being Crushed by Rogue Factory Farms

By Lynn Buske  Posted by Will Fantle (about the submitter)       (Page 1 of 2 pages)   No comments
Follow Me on Twitter     Message Will Fantle
Organic Family Dairies Being Crushed by Rogue Factory Farms

Farmers Appeal to OMB, President Obama for Justice

WASHINGTON, DC: Family farmers from around the country, who produce organic milk, are petitioning president Obama, and the White House's Office of Management and Budget (OMB), for the swift adoption of new strict rule-making that will rein in the abuses of a handful of factory farms they claim are violating both the spirit and letter of the federal organic law.

The pending rewrite of the organic livestock standards, with an emphasis on assuring compliance with provisions that require that ruminants, like dairy cows, be grazed, is currently under review at OMB, where the administration is being heavily lobbied by industrial farming interests to water down the rules.

To meet the explosive growth in the organic industry, over the last five years, a number of large industrial dairies, milking as many as 7200 cows, have exploited the stellar reputation that organic dairy products have earned in the eyes of consumers who are looking for safer and more nutritious food for their families.

"With the flattening of demand for organic food, these giant dairies have flooded the market with cheap milk that is now crushing the family farmers who have built this industry," said Mark Kastel, Senior Farm Policy Analyst at The Cornucopia Institute. "These CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations) are anathema to organic consumers investing in a more environmentally sensitive approach to food production and humane animal husbandry. Ironically, one of the reasons they are willing to pay extra for organic milk is they think that the farmers who produce it are being fairly treated."

The current surplus of organic milk, caused by factory farms, has forced prices down for family farmers. Sadly, there have been reports around the country of a number of suicides of both conventional and organic dairy producers. Some organic farmers are now facing foreclosure, a stark contrast to the economic promise of organics over the past two decades of growth.

Organic farmers are particularly resentful of two corporate players that heavily lobbied the USDA during both the Bush and Obama administrations, attempting to weaken regulatory language that requires dairy cows to be managed in a way that promotes their natural instinctive behaviors, including grazing on open pastures rather than spending most of their lives confined in barns and dirt feedlots.

The largest villain, in the eyes of dairy farmers, is Aurora Dairy. The $100 million corporation owns five "factory farms," managing thousands of cows each, in arid regions of Texas and Colorado. Owning its own manufacturing plant, Aurora packages and ships milk for sale as store-brand products at Wal-Mart and a number of leading supermarket chains. Aurora's factory farm milk reaches every corner of this country, undercutting ethical farmers and their marketing partners.

"Although the president of Aurora Dairy, Mark Retzloff, has heavily contributed to the Democratic Party, President Obama, and Tom Vilsack, former Iowa governor who is now USDA Secretary, we trust that the current administration will focus on the suspect practices of his company rather than their past financial and political support," Kastel stated.

In what has been described as the largest scandal in the history of the organic industry, in 2007, the USDA found that Aurora had "willfully" violated 14 tenets of the federal organic law including confining their animals, instead of grazing, and bringing illegal conventional cows into their factory farm operations.

The Bush administration let Aurora off without a cent in fines, instead placing the company on a one-year probation. Since then, 19 class-action lawsuits by consumers, charging Aurora with consumer fraud, has been working its way through the federal court system.

More disturbing to many organic consumers and farmers alike, especially in California, is the revelation that a previously respected and popular organic brand, Straus Dairy, has actively partnered with Aurora in attempting to scuttle enforcement of the pasture requirements for organic cattle under evaluation by the OMB.

"Albert Straus has repeatedly stated in public, and now is petitioning the Obama administration, claiming that it's impossible in his environment, north of San Francisco, to comply with the new proposed federal requirements for pasturing his cattle," said certified organic dairy producer John Mattos, who farms about 10 miles further north of the Straus operation in Sonoma County. Mattos is a member-owner of Organic Valley, a cooperative of family farmers that competes with Straus.

Mattos purposely chose to milk Jerseys, and Jersey crossbreeds, instead of the more productive and more common Holsteins, because they thrive when grazing in more marginal areas. "I graze 5 1/2 months a year, my cows are outside year round, I have no problems with the proposed standards," Mattos affirmed.

There were no cows out on pasture at the Straus dairy when it was observed by Kastel when he visited the Straus operation, and other area dairy farms, in 2008.

"It is grossly unfair that just a handful of dairies, for selfish reasons, are trying to derail strict enforcement," said Bob Camozzi, an organic farmer who also ships his milk to Clover Stornetta, another local North Coast California dairy brand.

Next Page  1  |  2

(Note: You can view every article as one long page if you sign up as an Advocate Member, or higher).

Rate It | View Ratings

Will Fantle Social Media Pages: Facebook page url on login Profile not filled in       Twitter page url on login Profile not filled in       Linkedin page url on login Profile not filled in       Instagram page url on login Profile not filled in

I work for The Cornucopia Institute. We are a non-profit that works to protect sustainable/organic food and small-scale farming. We often write press releases surrounding what is happening in the industry and what our research discovers. You can (more...)
Go To Commenting
The views expressed herein are the sole responsibility of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of this website or its editors.
Follow Me on Twitter     Writers Guidelines

Contact EditorContact Editor
Support OpEdNews

OpEdNews depends upon can't survive without your help.

If you value this article and the work of OpEdNews, please either Donate or Purchase a premium membership.

If you've enjoyed this, sign up for our daily or weekly newsletter to get lots of great progressive content.
Daily Weekly     OpEd News Newsletter
   (Opens new browser window)

Most Popular Articles by this Author:     (View All Most Popular Articles by this Author)

Organic: Food Justice for the 99% (Response to Time Magazine/Dr. Oz denigration of organic consumers)

Not Good Enough for Pet Food: Chinese Organic Food Scrutinized at Congressional Hearing

Organic Industry Watchdog: FDA Food Safety Rules Threaten to Crush the Good Food Movement

To View Comments or Join the Conversation:

Tell A Friend